Unlike some future grooms, my husband helped with a lot of the wedding planning. He picked the menu, the cake, the venue and he singelhandedly documented receipt of the reply cards. Every day he hurried to he mailbox to collect the replies and took great delight in making the necessary notations on the master list. I could tell when the cards began to dwindle because he started to walk a little slower to the mailbox. For us, the reply cards were an exhilarating experience, and eventually an exhausting one, since not everyone replied in a timely manner, replied appropriately or replied at all. Believe it or not, the reply card is fraught with places for guests to make errors and faux pas and for some reason, this is where guests make the majority of blunders. Your part is simple: You address the invitation to the person(s) you are inviting and make sure that you have a place on the reply card for the number of invited guests. So, what do you do when it all goes awry despite your best plans and intentions?
-When you sent a reply card that is obviously intended for the invited guest +1 and the invited guest returns the card, adding +2 or more without having previously discussed this with you, including adding their own children without your approval or acceptance of the idea, it is time to pick up the phone. Simply tell the guest that their invitation is intended for them and one guest only and leave it at that. There are exceptions but, those exceptions are totally up to you. What if they show up with the +2 or more, anyway…? You have to be prepared how to handle this, just in case.
-When you have received no reply card and it’s one week before the wedding? Time to pick up the phone and make a call to this guest and ask if they will be attending. Be specific about the reason you are calling; so you can ensure all of your guests have a place to sit and a proper meal.
As for those who reply, “YES” and then don’t show, there must be a very good reason. Of course you don’t expect someone with a serious illness or broken leg to jump out of a hospital bed to attend your wedding but, wait until after the wedding to then call and see if they are doing better. Don’t wait for them to call you, they won’t. They will probably feel you are too busy to talk and will wait for action on your part. This is not a snub or lack of concern, and this is one of those tiny little things that can ruin a lifelong friendship. Pick up the phone, call and see what happened. You are the only person who can decide if their reason for being a no-show was adequate.
-What if the reply is “NO” and they show up anyway? This is tricky. Speak to someone at the venue and see if there is a place they can be seated (there is usually some wiggle room) Of course they won’t have an assigned table or a place card or a favor but, they will be able to sit and that is all that matters. If there really is no room, you will have to be the one to deliver the news as gently as possible. I know firsthand how difficult this can be, I actually had a couple show up after having replied “NO” and there were no additional seats available anywhere in the room. Our solution was to ask them to sit at the bar and we paid ‘a la carte’ for two additional meals. Tricky but not unmanageable.
There may be no single solution that works for everyone but, planning ahead will avoid hurt feelings and possible blowups. Consider posting information regarding seating on your wedding website if you have one, emailing people who you think may be having trouble with the reply card concept and possibly having specific instructions printed on the reply card. Some couples have resorted to adding “We have reserved ___ seats for you” (or similar text) to the reply card. In my opinion, keep it simple and limit the possiblities of error. Although going above and beyond is a nice gesture, I doubt if some people will even notice.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago